Friday Finds #119

It’s Superbowl Sunday weekend!

If you’re looking for last minute ideas for game-day food, check out my favorite appetizer-type recipes in the post “Game Day Round-up for Your Studio and Kitchen“.



Another great piano teacher blog I just came across this week! One of the writers, Davis Dorrough actually announced my session last year at the MTNA Conference in Orlando. Hi, Davis!



MTNA just announced a new conference for advanced teaching. This is very, very cool!



The MTNA e-Festival has taken a drastic drop in price from $60 to $25 per entry! Another incredible announcement from MTNA!



I’m feeling really tempted to buy this piano bench after reading the review on 4-D Piano Teaching. Does anyone else use this bench and have feedback? If so, please comment below!



GIML (Gordon Institute for Music Learning) has given their website a much-needed update. It is so much more user-friendly and visually appealing!



We hit record low temperatures this week in Indiana with one day at -15 and windchills at -40. Chili was on the menu for dinner that night. Here’s my current favorite chili recipe. 

Other favorites through the years have included Tex-Mex Corn Chip ChiliOne-Pot Chili Mac, and Instant pot White Chicken Black Bean Chili (we prefer the chicken cubed rather than shredded).



Good intentions (how to be on time).



The story that Emily P. Freeman tells in episode 65 of The Next Right Thing podcast had me rolling with laughter. It’s exactly the sort of thing I could see happening to me. I found it so funny, I made my husband listen to it that night.

It’s about having a green thumb…or maybe not having a green thumb… (we’re talking caring for living plants here in case you’re lost).

It’s a 2-minute story and will add a smile to your day. (It starts at 1:30 in case you only want to listen to the story.)


A Visual Guide for Formula Pattern Scales

Contrary motion scales are awesome. Not only are they fun to play and sound cool, but they’re a wonderful way to teach scale fingerings – especially when students are first learning to play scales. Students seem to love them as well.

A step up from a simple contrary motion scale is playing scales using what’s called a “formula pattern.” (I’ve always wondered why it’s called a “formula pattern” so if you know, please educate me! It’s such a boring name for such a fun scale pattern.)

I think we should call them zig-zag scales instead!

The first time I tried to teach a student the formula pattern was a struggle. I try to avoid using formal “scale books” for students to have to read every note and fingering, so I needed to find an easy way to explain the pattern.

Since I’m a visual person, I came up with this simple Formal Pattern Visual Guide for my students. Every student I’ve used this with has found it very helpful and so I realized it was time I shared it with you!

After my students finish Piano Safari Technique Level 3, which covers the keys of C/Am, G/Em, and F/Dm, I’ve been moving them into the RCM technique leveling. Even though I don’t send my students to RCM, I like having a step-by-step leveling system.

Joy Morin has a free downloadable PDF of the Technical Requirements for the 2015 RCM Program we use.

As far as formula pattern goes, here are the requirements RCM has:

Level 1 = C Major
Level 2 = C, G Major
Level 3 = D Major
Level 4 = C minor
Level 5 = A Major, A minor
Level 6 = E Major, E minor
Level 7 = D Major, D minor
Level 8 = Eb Major, Eb minor
Level 9 = Db Major, F Major, C# minor, F minor

My downloadable PDF has two pages. One includes no fingerings and is the one I originally made.

Since the first seven levels all use the same fingering, however, my students found it even more helpful to have the starting and ending finger numbers written in at each octave point.

Once they hit level 7, I wouldn’t be too worried about needing a visual. Once students have used this for even just a couple of levels, they catch on and don’t really need it anymore.

I hope your students find it helpful! Click on the image to download.


Friday Finds #118

Two weeks ago I told you that I would share a photo of the make-shift kitchen we set up after we moved into the basement of our new house. It wasn’t photo-worthy last week but this week it was.

To be honest, I can’t believe I’m even showing you this! You must think I’m crazy, but I don’t care! We’re finally living in our new home and that to me is amazing.

The top left photo is my “cooking area” with a toaster oven, George Foreman Grill, Induction cooktop, basic oils and seasonings, Ultimate Cutco knife set (I used to sell them in college), cutting boards, and hot pads. The crates below house some of my basic bowls, storage containers, and frequently used utensils.

In the bottom right photo, we see the microwave, coffee maker, toaster, and water kettle. The tubs and bags below the table are holding the paper serve-wear we’re using to minimize dishes, plastic wraps, and baggies, etc. I just try to think of it as camping on steroids.

The best part is yet to come when, later this year (sometime between April and July), our kitchen cabinets will be done and then I can show you the pretty kitchen!

Now that you feel better about the kitchen you have – go cook something wonderful!



One of my favorite “under 20-minute” podcasts is the Nutrition Diva’s Quick and Dirty Tips. As with the majority of podcasts I listen to on a daily basis, I only listen to the ones that interest me the most (or you eventually go on podcast overload). Here’s one of my recent Nutrition Diva listens:

3 Myths (and 1 Truth) About Grain-Fed Beef



What’s In Season: January Produce Guide. I always seem to find myself craving orange juice in the winter. Unfortunately, I don’t like eating oranges because I hate the membrane, but citrus is definitely a big one this time of year!



“Frustrations” by Piano Addict. I love the opening quote on this post…



How to be Honorable.



Hands Separately Practice – Useful or Not?



Recently I’ve determined I really want to try and incorporate more fish into our diet. So, last week we had this super-simple and really delicious Cod Sautéed in Olive Oil with Fresh Tomatoes

On my recipe list for this week is another super simple Poached Cod in Tomato Sauce, and bookmarked in my recipes tag in Evernote for the future when I have a better setup is a this a-little-heavier-on-the-ingredients recipe Macadamia-Crusted Sriracha Ranch Salmon.

After seeing my kitchen you understand why my recipe list includes only recipes with minimal ingredients!




Friday Finds #117

My piano was long overdue for a tuning. The start to the semester is always a good time to give a little extra care to our instruments. This time around, my sostenuto pedal needed to be adjusted. In order to fix it, my tuner had to pull the key bed out which was a perfect time to give it a little cleaning!

Besides dust, other items that had found a home below included a sticker and a key letter-name manipulative that students set on top of the keys when they’re learning key names. All in all, I would say we weren’t doing too bad!

While we’re on the topic of piano care…



My Local Music Teachers group met last Friday at a local piano shop for a program on piano care. One of the items they recommended was the Cory products for cleaning your piano keys and polishing the body of the piano. Pay attention to the finish of your piano before choosing the polishing product.

You can get a kit on Amazon that includes the Key cleaner and polish for super high-gloss piano finishes.



“Naked Piano Week”. Exploring the piano and understanding how it works is something I’m sure we all think is important but likely forget to do. Ideally, I think it would be nice once a year to set aside one lesson to refresh with students how their instrument works!



This blog post on using multiple computer screens by Rosemarie Penner was an excellent idea to share on productivity for teachers. I’ve been using two screens for a couple of years and should have done it sooner. My husband has been using 2-3 screens at work for even longer. It’s not hard to set up and it saves a lot of time flipping between screens.



Speaking of flipping between computer screens/windows, if you’re not using some of the basic keyboard shortcuts (like “Alt-Tab” for switching between windows), you will save yourself a lot of time by learning some of those shortcuts. Here are shortcuts for Windows users and shortcuts for Mac users.



Several of you have emailed me after I write the post on how I manage internet content. Part of managing internet content is also managing your email inbox. Here’s a podcast I listened to a couple of years ago that helped me improve how I manage my inbox.



Oxo products are amazing. See what items Oxo employees love.

My absolute favorite Oxo product is the cutting boards. I would recommend owning all three sizes (especially the 14.5″x 21″)




Like Nicola, I started using My Music Staff this year. One of the biggest things I like about it at the moment is having professional-looking invoices emailed to families. Check out Nicola’s review.



What a lovely thing. See how this woman transformed a rotting tree into a useable space for her neighborhood.



One Teacher’s “King-Sized Master Spreadsheet”

It’s always nice to see and hear how teachers are using the tools, tips, and tricks they hear about here on Piano Pantry. I was delighted to see Lauren Lewandoski share on her website this week her version of the King-Sized Master Spreadsheet.

Check out Lauren’s spreadsheet!

Have you created your own master spreadsheet as well? If so, I would love to feature a post that highlights how several teachers are customizing their own. Drop me an email!


Friday Finds #116

This is my photo of the week because mostly because it encompasses what I’ve been meditating on these last few days. James is one of my favorite books of the Bible. Plus, since we’re just back to lessons this week, I didn’t take any photos of studio happenings.

If you’re on the Piano Pantry email list and read December’s Secret Letter, then you’ve heard the news that we moved! (Hence no Friday Finds the last two weeks). We’re finally living in the basement (future studio) of our new house while we finish the upstairs. Next week, if I remember, my photo of the week will be my crazy makeshift kitchen!



How to Handle Sentimental Clutter – whether you’re moving or just de-cluttering after the holidays, this is good advice.



WunderKeys now has a Level 1A – this is big news!



One of my students started playing Tum-Balalaika from Faber 3B Performance this week, so we Googled “Balalaika” and came across this amazing video.



SETH GODIN | The thing about arguments…



8 Easy Ways to Create Work-Life Balance (using self-care habits) from piano blogger Rosemarie Penner.



A 7-pound bucket of Nutella. Tempting.



The Best Guide on How to Buy, Care For, or Sell a Piano



A new collaborative project by Jennifer Foxx.



Types of posts that have to stop in 2019. I can’t say I disagree.



A few podcast ideas from one piano teacher to another.


Top Posts from 2018

The Best of the Best


It’s that time of year! Yep, it’s time for a recap of life, including the life of Piano Pantry! In this post you will find:
  • Most popular posts written in 2018
  • Most popular posts/pages of all time
  • Most read Friday Finds of 2018
  • My personal favorite from 2018
  • A month-by-month recap of posts from 2018


Most Popular Posts Written in 2018

#1 Piano Teacher Must-Have’s: A Minimalist’s List

#2 Candy Jar Contest Printable

#3 Manipulatives and Games for Private and Group Lessons: A Master List

#4 One-Click Calendar: Your Annual Studio Calendar Simplified [Video]

#5 Back-to-Teaching: Six Easy Recipes for the Week Ahead


Most Popular Posts/Pages of All Time

#1 Assignment Sheet Central

#2 Piano Safari Stuffed Animal Shopping Guide

#3 Piano Teacher Must-Have’s: A Minimalist’s List

#4 Candy Jar Contest Printable

#5 Evernote: An Independent Piano Teacher’s Handbook, Part 1


Most-Read Friday Find of 2018

#1 = Friday Find #100 (of course, it was the big recap and giveaway winner announcement! 🙂 )


My Personal Favorite From 2018

While this was not one of the top posts, the addition of the monthly “Secret Letter” was the biggest addition to Piano Pantry this year and the one thing that has excited me (and still excites me) the most.

Writing them is a highlight of my month (and hopefully it’s a highlight for readers as well!). They feel like a special piece of me delivered right into your hands.

If you would like to subscribe, you can do so here.


Month-by-Month Recap of Posts from 2018

  • Piano Teacher World: A Year in Recap: 2018
  • This “Top Posts from 2018: The Best of the Best”  🙂


If you want to check out the recap posts from previous years check out:

Piano Pantry’s Best of 2016.

Piano Pantry’s Top Posts from 2017


Friday Finds #115

Christmas Edition

Last lessons are being taught, final gifts are being purchased and wrapped, and grocery cards are full of holiday treats as Christmas nears. May you have a blessed time with friends and family over the next week and find your time off from teaching rejuvenating and relaxing.

Merry Christmas!



Easy Christmas Lead Sheets to Inspire Creativity.



If you’re a user of hashtag’s, check out The Best Hashtags to Use During the Holiday Season.





I thought I was in heaven when one of my husband’s co-workers made this Peanut Butter Brownie Puppy Chow.  

His co-workers went bonkers over this Easy Cranberry and Apple Cake I made. (Tip: We like it better with about 1/2 the number of cranberries.)

Both our families go crazy over these Cranberry Feta Pinwheels when we make them during the holidays.



A beautiful night time Christmas tour.



Peppermint candy canes or fruity candy canes? Get in the debate!



We’re having ham for our family Christmas lunch. Here’s the most popular honey ham recipe on Pinterest. (My mom is making ours – she does her own thing and it’s awesome but I don’t have a recipe 😉 )



How to Host an Easy Holiday Brunch.



You Need To Follow These 10 Instagram Accounts For Holiday Inspiration.



Christmas season posts from my Instagram account (which I use mostly for my studio).


Piano Teacher World

A Year in Recap: 2018


Last year (2017), after being inspired by a post written by Leila Viss in 2016, I decided to sit down and think through everything that happened not only in my world as an independent piano teacher but just in general in what I would call “Piano Teacher World”.

Writing posts like these the last couple of years have been very enlightening, encouraging and really just a healthy exercise in gratitude in general.

The idea behind the “Piano Teacher World” recap is to take a look back at significant news, happenings, and impact in the world of independent piano teachers. The final part of this post also includes resources that have made a direct impact on my own teaching.

I tried to be as thorough as I could and will admit that the list is much smaller than it was last year. Be sure and share in the comments if there was anything you would add to the list!

For the sake of being thorough, I asked for recommendations on multiple Facebook groups and received a lot of excellent feedback on The Art of Piano Pedagogy group regarding overall trends – all of which I agree with. Let’s start with those. (If you’re interested in reading all the comments, which are much more specific, check out the full post here.)


2018 Trends

1 | Declining or leveled-off interest in iPads and apps. Better balance and understanding in the role they play in lessons.

2 | Teaching and learning piano online is becoming more and more viable and easily available.

3 | A shift in attitude and growing excitement toward rote teaching/learning.

4 | Increased curiosity and interest in Music Learning Theory and how it can impact piano teaching, not just Early Childhood Music.

5 | Continually improved quality and ease-of-availability in regards to self-published material.

6 | Rising interested in quality blogs, podcasts, and online communities.

7|  Continual professionalization of the field.

8 | A renewed interest in pedagogy outside of academia.

9 | Ongoing concerns with declining membership in professional organizations such as MTNA.

Also mentioned in the list, while not a “trend,” was Brenda Wristen and Lora Deahl’s book Adaptive Strategies for Small-Handed Pianists (Published November 2017).


In Piano Teacher News

ELISA MILNE opened a shop on her website.

Launch of CYBER CONSERVATORY that accompanies the app Super Score.

A teacher friend shared this one specifically with me. She has always loved Marvin Blickenstaff’s method “Music Pathways” and Paul Sheftel’s MIDI accompaniment for the series. She says there are lots of good compositions by Lynn Freeman Olson. 

THE FRANCIS CLARK CENTER is continuing to see changes as Dr. Pamela Pike was named the new Editor in Chief/Chief Content Director and Dr. Andrea McAlister was appointed as the new Director of Content Curation and Senior Editor for Clavier Companion. 

They also launched a Facebook group for subscribers called Piano Teach Learn.

Continue reading

Friday Finds #114

I’ve finally learned my lesson over the years that I should not wait until the last week of lessons to give my students their Christmas presents. Why? There have been plenty of years where students didn’t come to the last week of lessons and thus I had a handful of gifts left. It just felt strange giving it to them in January.

Next week is our last week of lessons so this week was the gift-giving week. The ornaments I gave out this year were a breeze as they came pre-wrapped in cute little gift boxes with ribbons around them. Easy! That’s my cup of tea.

The other lesson I’ve learned is that I try to purchase next year’s gift the year prior, then I don’t have to worry about what to get my students when Christmas comes around next year. There have been plenty of years where I was down to the last wire getting an order in time. It was such as relief this year to find this box of ornaments all ready to go!

You can find the ornaments pictured above on Amazon.

(As always a reminder that anything linked to Amazon is an affiliate link which simply means that if you happen to purchase using that link, I receive a small percentage back at no extra cost to you which helps me maintain this website).

We’re in the long-stretch to Christmas break. Keep it up!



Ear infection. Yuck! I haven’t had one of those since I was a kid and yet here I am, fighting one this week (along with other cold symptoms). Consequently, I’m using a lot of my go-to tips shared in Germ-Alert: A Studio Teachers Guide to Staying Healthy. (Or maybe telling you I’m sick isn’t a way to get you to read my tips to staying healthy…hmmm…I think I have that backward. 🙂 )



THAT person is more important than your phone. Yes, Amen. I try to always keep this in mind when going through a drive-through. More than once I’ve found myself driving away and realizing I never even really looked the people in the eye that took me money or handed me food.

Be intentional at acknowledging people.



The best pack of stickers I’ve ever spent money on. I tell my students even I want to earn one of these stickers! 🙂

Koobar Year-Round Holiday Stickers Variety Pack (400+ stickers)



I’m always up for a good list of recommended podcastsThanks, Leila.



While we’re on the topic of lists, Rosemarie Penner at has created a couple of lists on her Top Must-Have Teaching Apps and Top Must-Have Business Apps for the Studio.



If you need some help organizing those apps, watch my video on how I organize my devices in App-land Madness.



One of my students who has been with me for more than 5 years has always had TERRIBLE posture.  It is a continual battle to get him to sit up and not slouch.

This past week I finally had a revelation to have him sit on one of the vestibular wedges I purchased this summer after being at Joy Morin’s Piano Retreat where we talked about technique/posture, etc. The instant effect was astounding and he even said that he noticed himself sitting taller at school (even without it). I wish I would have thought about this years ago

Personally, I’ve been using this one on my teaching chair this entire semester and absolutely love it.